Shakespeare wrote: ‘There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so’. Although I wouldn’t say this could be applied to everything in life or in industry – a failed machine is a failed machine, after all – it is an interesting way of looking at things. How does perception make or break a person, an action, a brand, or even a nation?
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Well, key to this, it seems to me, is consumer confidence. This is currently something that is in the headlines a lot thanks to the gloomy economic situation that prevails. But let’s think of consumer confidence not only in terms of physical purchasing, but also in regard to how we ‘buy into’ people and ideas – in other words, the confidence we place in what we are told.
Back in November 2008, Barack Obama had the confidence of a high enough portion of the US to become President. The majority of the voting population believed in his ideas; they shared his perspective on what was good and what was bad; they bought into the Obama brand. A couple of years on, and it would be fair to say that Obama has lost some of that confidence. The tide of popular thinking has turned somewhat against him. Whether his policies or his actions have been good or bad is irrelevant. People have perceived Obama’s decisions to be bad – and that is what counts.
Now what about that gloomy economic situation? Ok, simply thinking that the bottom was going to fall out of the market did not trigger the recession – we have some short sighted bankers to thank for that – but once the potential for collapse was out in the open, confidence dropped, share prices fell, savings were withdrawn and – BIFF! BANG! WALLOP! – the market was KO’d.
And what about the power of perception when it comes to manmade global warming? Sure, the earth’s temperature is rising, that much we can tell. There are those that think it is a natural increase, and others who firmly believe that the increase in temperature is correlated to an increase in greenhouse gas emissions. Perception is a major player here, when what it comes down to is who do you trust? Which theory do you buy into? For many people it has become a case of ‘industry = bad’, with no deeper thought than that, and that includes the cement industry.
So how can we change people’s perceptions? Well we could learn a thing or two from China, which has done a pretty good job of marketing itself in the last decade or so. The 2008 Olympics in Beijing played a significant part in this, proving that actions speak at least as loud as words. In the last year since COP15, the country has also come a long way in boosting its eco profile, having dedicated itself to a massive 40 – 45% drop in per capita emissions. Generally speaking, China has become a more vocal speaker on the global stage. This issue's Regional Report includes articles about China’s involvement in the Cement Sustainability Initiative (page 35) and one company's waste heat power generation projects (page 41), which will contribute to emissions reduction in the country.
Education, information and communication, I would say, are crucial to building consumer confidence. With that in mind, I would like to thank all of the authors who have contributed to WORLD CEMENT over the past 12 months, and all of you who have been reading the magazine and visiting worldcement.com. Hopefully we’ve all learnt something! Thanks also to our advertisers for their continued support. If it is holiday time where you are, I hope you enjoy the break. For everyone else, why not put your feet up, relax, enjoy this Special Comminution issue of WORLD CEMENT – then get back to work!